21 BRIDGES (2019) FILM REVIEW

RELEASED: November 22nd 2019
DISTRIBUTED BY: STXFilms
DIRECTED BY: Brian Kirk
WRITTEN BY: Adam Mervis & Matthew Michael Carnahan
PRODUCED BY: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo, Mike Larocca, Gigi Pritzker, Logan Coles & Chadwick Boseman
MUSIC BY:  Henry Jackman & Alex Belcher
STARRING: Chadwick Boseman, Sienna Miller, Stephan James, Taylor Kitsch & J.K. Simmons

21 Bridges follows Chadwick Boseman’s Andre Davis, a New York City Police Detective who is summoned to track down two criminals who gunned down several police officers after a botched robbery. Determined to stop the criminals before they escape New York, Davis has the entire island of Manhattan shut down (by closing the 21 Bridges that surround the city, as well as the tunnels, boat routes, etc. – but that’s probably too much to fit into the title) as he floods the city with cops and begins a dangerous game of cat and mouse.

The film is far from being one of the best movies of the year, but for those in the mood for an entertaining thriller, it will probably do the job. While the story itself is fairly standard up to a point, and the dialogue is filled with a lot of what seem like cliché cop lines, the film is competently made and features some solid actors.

Front and centre is Chadwick Boseman, who gives a sincere, noble performance as the lead detective Andre Davis. I found Davis to be a particularly interesting protagonist, because although he does have some depth and personal issues, he seems a far cry from your usual thriller protagonists (or at least the ones I see) in that he is inherently and consistently a good person. He has no obvious dark side and remains righteous throughout the movie. Some may find this boring, but I found it an interesting change of pace, as the only other star of an action thriller (sort-of) that I could think of off the top of my head would be Captain America in The Winter Soldier. The idea of a hero being wholly good seems to somewhat outdated outside of a few characters who have endured since the 60s and 70s.

Joining Boseman are Sienna Miller and J.K. Simmons as two of his fellow officers who are hungry for revenge for the deaths of the slain police officers. They both give exceptional performances, but unfortunately their characters and stories have significantly less substance, and thus their end destinations seem to be telegraphed fairly early on. Certain elements of the film, as a result, become a bit predictable.

The most interesting characters (and by extension, stories) in this film may actually belong to the villains. The film seems to go back and forth on whether or not the criminals being hunted are to be given the same level of screentime as Boseman’s character, but the way they’re forced to change and adapt when a whole city is out looking for them is perhaps the most entertaining element of the movie. Both James and Kitsch play the desperation of men on the run very well, and Kitsch, in particular, is very believable as a dangerous killer.

It’s also when these two characters are onscreen that I think the best element of the film comes about, and it’s not something I usually talk about in reviews: the sound design.

While Henry Jackman and Alex Belcher’s score is perfectly serviceable, the best element of the sound in this movie comes courtesy of the intensity of the various sirens, machinery and gunfire. Each shot fires with an amazing amount of power that makes the gunfights seem especially visceral and more deadly than the mindless violence we often see on our screens. The way the sounds have been mixed gives the film that necessary added bit of weight that the script sometimes lacks. A strange thing to really cling onto I suppose, but it’s just something I noticed from the start.

Overall, the film is fine. Bar the sound design and some moments in the performances, it doesn’t really stand out all that much from other action thrillers. However, there are some factors, as mentioned above, that do elevate it from being a rather forgettable movie to one that’s worth the watch, if you like these sorts of films.

All-in-all, I give 21 Bridges:

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